Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What could the city give up to raise funding for the schools?

The School District of Philadelphia has asked the city to pony up between $75 million and $110 million to help it fill a budget gap. The mayor and City Council seem inclined to help, although they are having a hard time deciding where they'll get the money.

What could the city give up to raise funding for the schools?

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Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman answering questions about the budget deficit. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman answering questions about the budget deficit. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)

The School District of Philadelphia has asked the city to pony up between $75 million and $110 million to help it fill a budget gap. The mayor and City Council seem inclined to help, although they are having a hard time deciding where they'll get the money.

The Mayor's Office informed Council yesterday that it should not consider a millage shift, which would reapportion the amount of property taxes that go to the district. What's left? Raising taxes? Cutting something else? And how much would it have to cut?

What does $100 million buy you in city government, anyway?

Welcome to the $100 Million Store, where everything costs (about) $100 million.

These are all items the city could trade to get the district the money it has requested.

500 cops

Cops on the beat are an absolute essential for any city. Philly has only about 6,600, so 500 makes a real difference. Want to keep this item?

It'll cost you . . .

Price tag: $100 million

The entire city trash collection operation

We're not just talking residential pickup here. We're talking recycling, bulk pickup, bagged leaf collection and sanitation convenience centers. The best part is, you'll still have a few million left in your pocket.

Price tag: $90.9 million

The court system

Do you like having courts? What about judges, juries, clerks and bail collection? If so, this item is for you. It's the First Judicial District! Let's check the cost of a justice system.

Price tag: $107 million

The Department of Recreation, plus the library and the Community College subsidy

The actual physical parks and library buildings aren't included at this price. But you can pay to run the parks and libraries, and cover the city's contribution to CCP.

Price tag: $106 million

Six City Councils

OK, you don't want this. Still . . .

Price tag: $96 million

A tax hike

If you have a house assessed at $100,000, you are paying about $2,900 in property taxes.

But to raise $100 million, according to our experts, the city would have to hike the property tax about 10 percent.

That means you'd be paying an additional $290 annually.

Price tag: $100 million

Full-day kindergarten, student transportation and other school programs

We don't mean to make light of the school district's financial predicament or to suggest the city shouldn't help the schools out. The cuts the district has threatened to make are drastic, and would be bad for children.

And of course, there are other ways the city could raise $100 million, including combinations of cuts and hikes. (The city would not actually eliminate its entire trash collection operation.)

But many of the cuts the city would have to make to help the schools would also be drastic.

Bottom line: Before the city commits to helping the school district, the mayor and council should sort out where they intend to get the money.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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